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Cemetery changes insensitive, say funeral directors

Cemetery changes insensitive, say funeral directors

4 June 2014

Many of Auckland Council’s proposed changes to its cemetery and crematoria bylaws are insensitive to the cultural, religious and social needs of families and are too restrictive, says the Funeral Directors Association (FDANZ).

FDANZ Chief Executive Katrina Shanks says the proposals would mean less flexibility for families around timing and access to cremations and burials. They cover all council cremators and cemeteries.

“These will affect families adversely and I am at a loss as to why most of these changes are being made,” Mrs Shanks says.

“It seems that there has been little consideration for families or cultural sensitivities taken into account in formulating these changes.

“It seems more about making things easier for the council at the expense of families. In fact, proposing extra fees on families in the event of late notification of a burial or cremation is exactly that, and looks more like a money-making exercise.

“Other changes may be simply because they have not thought about the ramifications of what they are proposing – but on such sensitive matters, they should have.

“Some of the changes will slow down the cremation and burial process at a time when families just want to get on with it and grieve.”

FDANZ has made a submission to the council. The proposals and FDANZ’s response to each include:

Restricting interments to between 10am and 3.30pm.
FDANZ: “The practice of capping burial numbers in any one day is not helpful to families because it restricts when they can plan a funeral. This has most significance on Mondays and the day after a public holiday (when burials cannot begin before noon), or any day where multiple families want a burial. This will result in loss of flexibility and will impact on cultural sensitivities regarding the timing of funerals. Maintaining the cap at five funerals a day, in the case at Manukau Memorial Gardens, in a city the size of Auckland is not acceptable.”

Notification of an intended burial must be made by no later than midday of the day prior, and additional charges will apply if there is no notice.
FDANZ: “The fact that the council is willing to prepare plots with less notice (and charge an additional fee) indicates it is possible to do plot preparation with shorter timeframes. So we question why there is a need to restrict times or numbers of burials in any one day. We believe this is nothing more than a money-making exercise.”

Only a person authorised by the council may fill in a grave.
FDANZ: “We strongly oppose such a restriction. We are seeking clarification, but if it is the council’s intention to restrict this to just council staff then there will be an adverse effect on families. Filling in the grave is an essential part of the funeral process for some cultural groups, and it would be wrong to deny them this. If health and safety is an issue, we suggest council staff be there to supervise it.”

Bookings for cremations must be made by midday on the day prior.
FDANZ: “This will slow down the funeral process, particularly if the death occurs close to or over a weekend. There is an increasing trend away from formal funerals, with many families now opting for cremation without a service. Many who follow this option want the cremation within a short timeframe, often on the day the death occurs. We believe council should still be willing to accept caskets for cremation on the same day a booking is made, even if the cremation cannot take place until the following day. Bookings should be able to be done after hours and at weekends and holiday periods.”

No more than two witnesses will be able to see the casket placed in the cremator.
FDANZ: “The impact on families of this proposal will be significant and we strongly oppose it. Allowing just two people to view the ‘charge’ will not be acceptable to communities and families for whom that is an essential part of their funeral culture. Hindu families often require a ceremony before the casket is put into the cremator. This involves the pundit (holy man), often accompanied by an assistant, leading a ceremony for the deceased’s eldest son and other significant male relatives. Restricting this to two people will not be welcomed by the Hindu communities.” We strongly suggest at least four witnesses be allowed (and prefer even more).

Ashes will not be able to be deposited in a public place without prior written approval.FDANZ: “The impact of this on families is potentially significant. It will affect the many families who wish to discreetly deposit the ashes at a “favourite place”. Also, Hindu families often wish to scatter ashes in the sea within 24 hours of cremation. This would make that problematic. We are seeking clarification as to how consent will be sought and approved, and who will monitor and police any breaches.

Floral tributes will be removed from plots after 14 days.
FDANZ: “The impact on families is difficult to quantify, but this could be seen as being unfair to those who have gone to considerable expense providing floral tributes. We would like a longer period, say 28 days.

Mrs Shanks says FDANZ is also seeking clarification on which caskets or shrouds are acceptable to the council for cremations, and on the type and detail of information recorded by cemeteries, including why the cause of death should be on the public record.

“Many of these changes would make things harder for families when the council should be making things easier.

“It seems it has not thought a lot of this through.

“A death in the family is an extremely emotional and stressful time for people and the council should have a strong think about that before they put impediments in peoples’ way.”

The Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand (FDANZ) is an association of caring professionals who are committed to ensuring the families they serve receive high quality funeral services. www.funeralsnewzealand.co.nz

ENDS

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